J HepworthYoung wrote: What you're suggesting is that an external martial art ignores(i.e. does not focus on) the movements of the body, or somehow doesn't recognize them as being linked to the movements of the sword.
I think it is silly to suggest that by pointing out an emphatic difference that there is a suggestion that things outside the emphasis are ignored.
What it seemed like to me is that you said: "External arts are those that focus on A. Internal arts are those that focus on B and
A," with the implication that B is outside of the realm of external arts. I'm sure that you didn't mean it to be taken to that extreme, but it sounds like the conclusion one would draw from this statement is that external arts are thus missing an integral part of the art(B) while internal arts can have their cake and eat it too. If this were true, there would be a clear relationship of inferior and superior, which I think we can all agree is not the case.
J HepworthYoung wrote:However from the point of view of the western analytical approach of fencing found in various books on the topic the emphasis is clearly upon the position of the sword
Well there's a few issues with this. First, they're not all analytical, not by a long shot. If we're talking about, say, 17th century rapier masters, then we see a lot of more analytical approaches which competed with each other for popularity by justifying themselves on logic and mathematics. There are plenty of masters who do not take this approach. Additionally, we have to keep in mind that we only have direct knowledge of those systems which were written down, usually in instructional manuals. So the extant manuals show certain biases toward literacy, toward what might be popular among the patronage, toward contemporary trends, etc.
[Edit: It should be noted that some of the time, the analytical approach can be attributed to the modern teachers of Western martial arts]
As for whether the emphasis is on the position of the sword, this is the problem that I was getting at earlier. Many masters give detailed information on blade position. They also give detailed information on body mechanics, relative position of different swordsmen, etc, often for multiple kinds of weapons. So while they often spent a lot of time talking about the subtleties of moving the sword, that doesn't mean that it came at the expense of other aspects of the art.
J HepworthYoung wrote: My point is that CMA swordsmanship is not swordsmanship the way that western swordsmanship is. It is martial art system, not a system of swordsmanship. The emphasis is not the sword, even when there is a sword present, this cannot be said of western fencing. However I have no problem with the conjecture that western sword styles are not complete martial art systems in the sense that the eastern versions are. What would be foolish is for me to conflate completeness of a system with a value judgment or a test of a system. That eastern martial art systems are complete systems, which include sword, does not make them superior sword systems to the western sword systems that do not include myriad other weapon and skill sets. Classically the martial arts of China included archery for example, that would make them more complete than a system that lacks this, but that does not mean that they are better or worse as far as another weapon is concerned. So differences can exist and be profound and a system can have what another lacks, and it is not a value judgment, rather it is an observation. Perhaps I am wrong.
Well I'm glad that we're not getting into value judgments, but I think you're inflating the differences between the arts. There are plenty of Western martial arts which are much more "complete," as you put it. For example, Bolognase swordsmanship(i.e. important 16th century school centered around Bologna, Italy) incorporates, single sword, sword and buckler, longsword, dagger, unarmed vs. unarmed, unarmed vs. dagger, possibly polearms, and so on, depending on which master(s) you look at. Within each of the extant texts, and sometimes between them, these different sections are theoretically consistent and work along the same principles. Sometimes there is a "central" weapon of focus(the Bolognase tend to like sword & buckler). But they've clearly demonstrated their ability to extend principles throughout complete systems, and the Bolognase school is far from the only example.
An interesting thread on the subject can be found on SwordForum here, with a lot of people who know more than I do: http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=97218
J HepworthYoung wrote:
I think the idea of primary and secondary emphases is missing the point, because they are both necessary. For example, I need both food and water to survive. Which one do I place more importance on? The question is irrelevant, because without either one, I will die.
Apples and oranges.
That's right. The question is irrelevant because the premise is flawed. Another way of putting it might be "Which is more important, inhaling or exhaling?" There's no point in one without having the other.
J HepworthYoung wrote:
I don't discount the difference between internal and external martial arts.
Then by all means please explain this difference.
This mentality is exactly the problem that I'm getting at. At the beginning levels of a martial art, when it is most apparent, it is easy to tell them apart. We know it when we see it. But when the distinction gets blurred, then it gets harder to tell and we all start to argue about where we draw the line. What I'm trying to say is that the difference only matters when there is a large gap, and when it's unclear, who cares? At that point, it's a small distinction anyway. Martial arts are all reflections of natural principles, filtered through the perceptions and experiences of each practitioner in the lineage. Each may choose a different set of principles to work with, but they're all based on the same foundation, and you don't just go and make up new ones.
J HepworthYoung wrote:
But these are very superficial classifications that are most accurate at the beginning level of training, and when we get hung up on them, we draw barriers between arts and inflate differences to be more than they really are.
Unless you are mistaken. It may be the case that the differences are underestimated far more than they should be.
I find that unlikely. Remember that we're all humans, the same laws of physics apply to everybody, and people of every culture have been fighting for thousands of years. There are innumerable examples of multiple cultures developing remarkably similar approaches to martial arts with no evidence of cross-cultural contact. There are differences between the arts, but martial arts principles do not belong to any one group, and are free to be discovered by or shared with anyone else. Effective approaches to fighting do not stay in one place, and more often than not they have been developed independently by more than one group of people.
J HepworthYoung wrote:
if, for example, your definition of an internal martial art is "one that heavily emphasizes Qi work," then internal martial arts can only really be Eastern, as Qi comes loaded with all sorts of cultural baggage.
Interesting opinion. I do not share it. Qi work is found in numerous practices and cultures. Perhaps you are conflating working with qi to be the employment of the term itself? The term has nothing to do with the reality, this is as internal and external too, it doesn't matter what you call it, the distinctions precede terms, they do not originate in them.
I'm not assigning one particular meaning to Qi. I was giving an example of a poor way of defining "internal martial arts." Let me try and restate it:
Qi has all sorts of subtleties and cultural baggage which are specific to China and its surrounding cultures. Even in Japan, which certainly is culturally distinct, you can see the influence of Chinese ideas about Qi. Qi is difficult to translate in English because it has more than one connotation, as well as those cultural associations that I mentioned. So if we define "internal martial arts" as a martial art which emphasizes Qi work, using all of the culturally-rich meanings of the word Qi, then we won't find an internal martial art outside of the Far East. Of course, if our definition of Qi is not so culturally dependent, this isn't true.
To flip this around, let's say that we study Western European martial arts, and we want to define what a "knightly" martial art is. A broad definition might include anything practiced by a professional fighting class, regardless of culture. Any of Japan's koryu bujutsu might fall into that category. But if we define a "knightly" martial art as a martial art practiced by a Christian professional soldier who consistently obeys the traditional Western European concept of chivalry, fighting on behalf of his feudal lord, then we will never find a "knightly" art outside of Western Europe. This tells us nothing about martial arts from other regions, but simply speaks to the culturally specific nature of our labels and definitions. This is the problem we run into when we try to apply cross-cultural labels.
J HepworthYoung wrote:
. Again, I believe this is merely a failure of labels and definitions.
I agree, the failure for me is the idea that the terms and labels create the distinctions between the arts.
There is a saying "The students disagree on almost everything, while the masters agree on almost everything." I do believe that the distinctions are real, but they seem greater than they are at the beginning, and through relentless subdivision and systematization, we make these differences out to be more than they are. The labels are just a descriptive tool, and I don't think they should be used any further than they are useful. One could divide the European rapier-based systems with Chinese jianfa
and be perfectly reasonable. Then I could take the former and tell you that you have an Italian school and a Spanish school. Well, that's fine. But then I divide the Spanish school into Carranza and Narvaez and Thibault, all of whom practice incredibly similar arts in the scheme of things, and it could probably be divided even further than that. When we take a step back, we can see that these labels are not pointless, but they are divisive.